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How well does modernisation theory explain the level of democracy-autocracy in China, Russia OR Germany between 1990 and 2020?
Assignment Question: How well does modernisation theory explain
the level of democracy-autocracy1 in China, Russia OR Germany
between 1990 and 2020?
1 Democracy and autocracy are measured on a single continuum in
the V-Dem database therefore you are also evaluating level of
autocracy in the country you choose to analyse.
Assignment task: In this exercise students will apply modernisation
theory to a single country case of their choice (China, Germany or
Russia). Students will use data from the V-Dem and World Values
Survey (WVS) websites to evaluate if the country’s levels of
modernisation, (independent variables, IVs), and its regime type
(dependent variable, DV) fit the expectations of the theory.
Specifically, each student will use the liberal democracy index from
the V-Dem database as a measure of regime type (democracy –
autocracy) in their chosen country (see Lindberg et al 2014). You
will then select two independent variables to measure your
country’s level of modernisation from the list of 4 choices below.
These IVs are related to different aspects of socio-economic and
cultural modernisation (see Wucherpfennig & Deutsch 2009). In the
essay you will need to justify your choices of modernisation
measures and why you think they are important to evaluate in your
Once you have chosen your variables, you should use the online
tools in V-Dem to graph the level of democracy-autocracy in your
country as well as how this has changed over time from 1990 to
appropriate, the WVS databases over this same period to analyse
the extent to which your chosen IVs are congruent with
modernisation theory’s expectations. (For example, do growing
levels of GDP per capita during the 30 year period correlate with
growing levels of democracy in your country? Does the overall level
of education and/or wealth in the country during the period match
with the theory’s expected level of democracy-autocracy?)
Although you cannot establish, prove or disprove causation
definitively in this single case research design, an association
between your IVs and your DV lends insight into the potential of
modernisation theory to explain the regime type observed in the
period being analysed. Your single case study can thus serve as a
plausibility probe for the usefulness (or not) of modernisation theory
for explaining regime type in your country case.
Given the limitations of this analysis and modernisation theory itself,
we also ask you briefly to consider alternative explanations for the
regime type outcomes you observe in your country after you
present your analysis. Here you can use your knowledge of the
country case and other theories of democratisation to suggest
factors other than those associated with modernisation that may be
needed to explain the regime type in your country case and how the
political regime has evolved over the 30-year period. This section is
a thought exercise. You should NOT do additional online graphing
or empirical analysis in this section.
Choice of Variables:
Dependent variable (regime type):
V-Dem liberal democracy index (continuum autocracy to
Independent variables (choose 2 measures of modernisation)
◦ GDP per capita
◦ Education 15+
◦ Equal distribution of resources
◦ Emancipative values (labelled RESEMAVAL; related to
Writing up results in your essay: The essay should include the
◦ Which country case have you chosen? Why?
◦ Where does your country fall on the democracy-
autocracy continuum in the period under study?
◦ Which aspects of modernisation did you choose to
◦ What did you find (briefly)?
Democracy Index measure? How does it measure level of
democracy-autocracy? Identify and justify the two measures of
modernisation (IVs) you have chosen for your analysis. Which
aspects of modernisation are you evaluating with your IVs?
Why are you applying these aspects to your case?
the data fit theoretical expectations of modernisation theory.
You can use trends over time and/or levels of modernisation
and democracy-autocracy in the period.
analysis of modernisation theory above, which might help
to account for the level of democracy-autocracy observed in
your chosen country over the 30 year period. You should draw
on theories of democratisation we covered in class (e.g.
presidential systems; elite pacts; international factors; other
cultural factors; resource curse) as well as your knowledge of
the country case from the course readings & lectures to
identify factors other than modernisation. You will only have
room to discuss 2-3 alternative factors. Try to highlight the
ones you think are most important for explaining your
particular country case.
reflecting on how well the data used in your analysis and the
single case research design help you to evaluate theory.
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